If you have read my book Just This Banjo you have some idea of the adventures I had trying to learn my trade despite my hearing issues. People who were following us back in 2009 may also remember the glorious day my BAHA implant was activated and I heard my guitar for the first time.
The initial implant was a single unit. I later had the surgery a second time for a bilateral system that would allow me to hear on the left as well as the right.
Eight months ago the BAHA sound processors I received in 2013 wore out, went out of warranty and went feet up. I have been working and living in near silence all this time. I did not say anything because people tend to overreact to that sort of thing.
A few days ago my father drove me up to Baltimore for a new set of sound processors for my bilateral BAHA. The trip was hard, so my enthusiasm was pretty diminished when I got home.
I have been slowly experimenting with the new devices and I am blown away. The units now have two microphones on the left and right so I now have a normal range of hearing.
The old units just had a single microphone on the side, making it hard to hear in front and behind me.
The new units also have new software that handles noise better. I can stream music from my iPad, and if I had a phone I could use the BHA like a BlueTooth and walk around talking rudely in the supermarket like an asshole – in other words, I could be normal! Whoo!
The real shock was a small wireless microphone. I can use it in a variety of ways to get sound from mixing boards, televisions and such to my BAHA. I can also simply put the mic across the room to increase my range of hearing.
Experimenting with the mic, I put it across the room and started laying my guitar.
Now I have heard my guitar through bone conduction and I have heard it through the staticky microphone of my old BAHA, but this was different. I can hear my own playing and singing better – but the mic also allows me to hear the sound from a different perspective. Where a recording is listening after the fact, this setup allows me to experience my music as I am making it in a way that I never dreamed possible.
It’s funny. I am turning 50 in March. My weight is down, I am slowly getting my mojo back and now I get to rediscover my music in what feels like a whole new light.
I’ll be spending the next few days acclimating to the new sounds. There have been funny moments, but today hearing the way my Dobro handles the bass and treble under my voice. . . well, that was fine. I wish to God Amy was here, but I’ll save this memory to share with her when we meet again.
Now I am off to work. Lets to do until whatever comes next comes next!
By popular demand! Order signed copies of Patrick Costello’s most popular books while supplies last!
Just This Banjo
Desperate for a way to communicate after losing his hearing, young Patrick Costello set his heart on becoming a musician. Ignoring the odds, empowered by his family and a karate grandmaster, Patrick won a banjo in a bet, salvaged a guitar from the trash and wandered into the city of brotherly love looking for a teacher. What happened next is an unbelievable true story of chasing improbable dreams, the kindness of strangers, the IRA, the Philadelphia Mummers, and unconditional love.
223 pages ISBN: 978-0974419077 $12.95
The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo
The groundbreaking book that has people around the world playing the five-string banjo! In a book that has redefined how traditional music is taught Patrick Costello shares the basic skills of old-time “frailing” banjo and much more. Starting with a simple picking pattern and a handful of chord forms (as the author points out, “if you know three chords you can play thousands of songs!”) the book continues to build on those basic skills covering everything from complex fiddle tunes to working up chord melody arrangements of Dixieland songs and beyond. Each chapter of The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo is filled with the author’s warm “down-home” sense of humor. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to get out and make music, have adventures and celebrate this wonderful thing called music. Patrick isn’t bashful about relating some of his own misadventures from his days as a beginner to encourage you to go out and make music with other people. The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo is a treasure trove of information and encouragement for anyone who wants to start playing the banjo.
168 pages ISBN: 978-0974419008 $24.95
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